Perrotto’s 3 Thoughts: Could Pirates Be Deadline Buyers?

Three thoughts on the Pirates:

  1. Hold off on that trade

It has been suggested in various corners — including this one — that the Pirates would be wise to gauge interest in right-hander Gerrit Cole when the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches.

The Pirates would seemingly get a bundle in a trade for a 27-year-old pitcher who won 19 games two years ago — though he is suppressing his trade value with a recent stretch of rough outings — and cannot become a free agent until following the 2019 season.

However, there might be one problem with that plan. The Pirates, as poorly as they have played at times, refuse to fall out of a closely contested National League Central race.

The Pirates are in last place in the division with a 26-31 record. Yet they trail the first-place Chicago Cubs (29-27) by just 3 ½ games.

While the defending World Series champion Cubs seem like the one team in the NL Central capable of breaking away from the pack, it is becoming apparent they may not have the pitching depth to do so.

The Pirates also figure to get right-hander Jameson Taillon back next week as he continues his remarkably rapid recovery from May 8 testicular cancer surgery.

Taillon is scheduled to make a third minor league rehab start Wednesday, his second for Class AAA Indianapolis, with the goal of stretching his pitch count to 90 or thereabouts.

The Pirates are being extra careful not to push Taillon as they have not set a timetable for when he might be activated from the disabled list. However, if he gets through Wednesday’s start without incident, it seems certain he will return during the three-game series with the Colorado Rockies that begins next Monday at PNC Park.

With Taillon coming back, center fielder Starling Marte a little more than halfway through the 80-game suspension he received for violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy and the division being so mediocre, the Pirates might end up being buyers rather than sellers in late July.

Hard to believe.

  1. Cole wants to stay

It seems almost certain that Cole won’t stay with the Pirates through 2019 as they wouldn’t be willing to pay him his full worth in a contract extension. However, that doesn’t mean Cole is eager to leave the Pirates.

It has generally been assumed Cole would love to return to his native southern California and pitch for one of the Los Angeles teams as soon as he has the chance. He was also a New York Yankees’ fan growing up and their first-round draft pick in 2008 as a high school senior, though he opted to go to college at UCLA.

“This is all I’ve ever known as a professional baseball player,” said Cole, who the Pirates chose first overall in the 2011 draft. “I love the guys in this clubhouse. They truly are like brothers to me. It wouldn’t be easy to leave.”

However, the sad fact of the matter is that nobody stays with the Pirates forever, especially a star-caliber player.

  1. Kuhl or Williams?

When Taillon returns, someone will leave the rotation and it seems certain the Pirates’ choice will be between right-handers Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams.

Williams was moved to the rotation from the bullpen when Taillon went on the DL and has pitched well in spots, going 2-2 with a 4.26 ERA in six starts. Meanwhile, Kuhl is 1-5 with a 6.02 ERA in 11 starts and has not won since beating the Atlanta Braves on April 8 in his season debut.

It says here the Pirates would be wise to send Kuhl to the minor leagues.

This is the first time the 24-year-old has struggled in his professional career. He was 5-4 with a 4.20 ERA in 14 starts with the Pirates last season as a rookie and compiled a 33-17 record and 2.75 ERA in 83 minor league starts over four seasons.

Kuhl needs a shot of confidence and has a better chance getting it at Indianapolis.

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